Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Pretty good comments to ponder in this Forbes Article. A former CEO, A.G.Lafley of Proctor & Gamble, speaks briefly about how to listen to your various stakeholders. He lays out six steps.

1. Pay attention
2. Suspend judgment
3. Reflect
4. Clarify
5. Summarize
6. Share

I have a little piece on #5 in our book. It is on page 133 and entitled, "Let Me Repeat it Back to You". This is a tool that I have used for many years. I used it with co-workers, clients, company personnel all the way up to the CEO/owner level.

I would simply listen to what someone was saying and then I would say, "Let me repeat it back to you to make sure that I understand what you said." It is a surefire way to ensure that I understand what is said and to make the other person know that I was listening.

When I raise this at our MBA sessions, this gets more flack than anything else Gail and I say. People have said that it sounds condescending or trite or just plain ridiculous. I am always surprised at that reaction because I have used this tool thousands of times without any negative feedback, other than my son rolling his eyes wondering how he got into this conversation in the first place.

It is all about where you come from when you speak. If you are genuinely trying to close the loop and make sure you understand, people will get that. On the other hand, if you are being condescending, they will get that.

Every once in a while, I ran into potentially confrontational people who would say something like, "don't you understand what I just said?" I would reply, "I think I understand but I would like to confirm my understanding. You don't want me to go down the wrong road and waste time do you?"

I think from the feedback, some people are reluctant to incur the ire of the less enlightened boss and take the chance that they know exactly what their boss wants. Here is the problem though, the same person you are reluctant to repeat it back to is the same person that has done a poor job explaining what they want you to do. They go hand in hand.

Repeat it back or take the consequences of 'doing what they asked for but not what they wanted.'

Cheers, Mike

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